On Friday, the Ontario Hockey League’s London Knights kicked off their 2018-19 campaign against their rival Windsor Spitfires at Budweiser Gardens in London. The Knights, who are coming off a rough season in which they traded a number of assets, are coming in with a much younger roster and much higher expectations considering the players they’ve got.
That said, some of those player are still off at NHL camps and a couple of them could have the potential to make opening night rosters with their respective big clubs. While that remains to be seen, the Knights will count on their young core to get things done in the interim.
With that, here’s a look at some of the key stories from the last week involving the Knights organization.
Knights’ Youth Giving the Spits Fits
With no Evan Bouchard, no Liam Foudy and no Alex Formenton, the Knights opened the season at home against the Spitfires with an impressive 5-2 victory.
A combination of discipline, three third-period goals and a dominating performance from one line in particular gave Jordan Kooy – a seventh-round pick of the Vegas Golden Knights – his first victory of the 2018-19 campaign.
Kooy made 24 saves in the win and was given five goals in support – three of which came from the line of Connor McMichael, Matvey Guskov and Nathan Dunkley.
McMichael – who was acquired by the Knights in 2017-18 – tallied his first two goals of the season while Guskov – a top eligible prospect for the 2019 NHL Draft – potted his first OHL goal. Meanwhile Dunkley tossed in three assists, with all four of them finishing with three points.
That said, the lines could get a mix-up with some players returning from camps.
Foudy, Boqvist Knighted
Following their late-week home opener, the Knights got some good news on the personnel front as two first-round picks from the 2018 NHL Draft were sent back to London.
On the same day that Liam Foudy was returned the @GoLondonKnights, the Chicago Blackhawks have assigned Adam Boqvist to London. Both are expected to play Friday night against the Soo Greyhounds. pic.twitter.com/11NFaIoDon
— Mike Stubbs (@stubbs980) September 26, 2018
The Columbus Blue Jackets returned Liam Foudy to the Knights following a three-game preseason for the 18th overall pick where he tallied one goal for the Jackets. Foudy’s coming off a 40-point campaign with the Knights in 65 games in 2017-18 and should add a major boost to the Knights up front.
Meanwhile, the Knights will also get help on the blue line with the Chicago Blackhawks sending down Adam Boqvist who was taken eighth overall in the 2018 NHL Draft. Boqvist will join an already talented team and adds more offensive upside to the Knights’ blue line – something they will need if Bouchard sticks with the Oilers to start the season.
That said, as Mike Stubbs reported, the return of Boqvist give the Knights three import players on their roster – meaning they are over the limit. The team now has 14 days to reduce that number to two.
Both Boqvist and Foudy are expected to make their season debuts on Friday against the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds at Bud Gardens.
Bangs to the Firebirds
Finally, the Knights made a small trade following their opening night win, moving defenceman Ryan Bangs to the Flint Firebirds in exchange for Sudbury’s third-round pick in the 2019 OHL Priority Selection.
“We would like to thank Ryan for his tenure within our organization,” said Knights general manger, Mark Hunter, in a team press release. “Ryan is a great young man and we wish him all of the best with his new team and throughout his future endeavours in hockey.”
Bangs has just seven games of OHL experience under his belt which came back in 2017-18 with the Knights. Over that short stint, he collected just two assists. The trade will certainly give Bangs a better opportunity to get some ice-time with the Firebirds.
Andrew is in his 8th year reporting for The Hockey Writers covering the Toronto Maple Leafs. He began his broadcasting with CBC’s Hockey Night in Canada team as well as being part of their coverage of the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi. He’s the former play-by-play voice of the London Jr. Knights for Rogers TV and currently hosts the Sticks in the 6ix podcast. You can follow him on Twitter at @AndrewGForbes.